Sister schools: After Media Days, comparing each program in SEC to one from Big Ten
First, it was Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher confidently proclaiming that the ACC is the best conference in America, not the SEC.
Next, it was Ohio State’s Urban Meyer quite hastily shooting down the idea that there’s still separation between the SEC and Big Ten. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t “think there’s a gap at all” comparing the two leagues for football supremacy.
Fisher made his bold comment two weeks ago at ACC Media Days, while Meyer made his Monday at Big Ten Media Days. It’s interesting to point out that no coach in the SEC made such a chesty statement earlier this month in Hoover, maybe because no print, radio or television type asked such a question. The fact that nobody felt the need speaks volumes, of course.
Among the Power 5, the SEC, ACC and Big Ten are atop the list with 14 full-time institutions each. Recently, we ran a piece giving each program in the SEC a sister school in the ACC. Now it’s time to do the same for the Big Ten.
Not all of the puzzle pieces fit perfectly, but some of these SEC-Big Ten pairings go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Sister school: Ohio State
Both the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes have won a national championship recently and made multiple appearances in the College Football Playoff. Each is a Top 5 program nationally and has an all-time great coach on the sideline — Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, Meyer in Columbus. ‘Bama and OSU have been the bluest of blue bloods seemingly forever and likely always will be.
Sister school: Iowa
Neither the Razorbacks nor Hawkeyes play a pretty brand of football. Their fans appreciate mammoth country boys along the offensive line opening up holes for bruising tailbacks. Additionally, Hogs coach Bret Bielema played at Iowa under the legendary Hayden Fry. That’s where he began to develop his trademark smashmouth style.
Sister school: Michigan State
The Tigers and Spartans suffer from little-brother syndrome. Auburn football will never be on the same level as Alabama, just like Michigan State football will never on the same level as Michigan. Nevertheless, when the stars align just right, little brother has the ability to beat up on big brother to the delight of onlookers everywhere.
Sister school: Nebraska
Once upon a time, the Gators were borderline indefensible with the revolutionary way they took to the air. Similarly, the Cornhuskers used to be an unstoppable force running the option snap after snap. While UF has tasted high-level success more recently than Nebraska, both schools have struggled at times to recapture their past glory.
Sister school: Michigan
The Bulldogs and Wolverines seem to be powerhouse programs on the surface, but are they really? UGA has claimed just one national title since 1942, while UM has only gotten its hands on one — it was split with Nebraska, too — since 1948. From access to recruits to piles of money, everything is in place to be dominant. They rarely are and tend to disappoint, though.
Sister school: Indiana
Sports fans in the Bluegrass State and Hoosier State don’t even look forward to football season. Basketball season suffocates the landscape. For both the Wildcats and Hoosiers, Midnight Madness is more of an event than any football game. Commitments have been made to pigskin here and there, but hoops will always be No. 1 in the end.
Sister school: Wisconsin
Baton Rouge is a tremendous college town with an incredible atmosphere on game day, especially under the lights at Tiger Stadium. The same can be said of Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, where their ability to get up and party for an 11:00 local kickoff is rather impressive. Additionally, each team operates an old-school offense that runs the ball effectively but throws it poorly.
Sister school: Minnesota
Unfortunately for the Rebels and Golden Gophers, their programs have made more headlines lately for scandal off the field than success on the field. Former Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze just stepped down when his shady personal life was uncovered, plus the NCAA has been investigating the Rebs for years. The Gophers have dealt with player boycotts, sexual assaults and ticket fraud.
Sister school: Purdue
Historically, the Bulldogs and Boilermakers are bottom-feeders in their respective conferences. Still, each is capable of catching lighting in a bottle with the right coach and a transcendent quarterback. Dan Mullen got MSU to No. 1 in the country with Dak Prescott, while Joe Tiller took the Boilers to the Rose Bowl with Drew Brees.
Sister school: Rutgers
Just like the Tigers aren’t a great fit on the map for the SEC, the Scarlet Knights are a square peg in the round-hole Big Ten. For the most part, Mizzou was invited to make the switch from the Big 12 to help capture markets in St. Louis and Kansas City. Similarly, Rutgers got the call to leave the AAC with hopes of turning on TV sets in New York.
Sister school: Illinois
Even if the Palmetto State isn’t Florida or Georgia when it comes to high school football, a lot of great players grow up there. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks don’t get their hands on enough of them. The same can be said of the Illini, who reside downstate from Chicago. Sadly, a pipeline to Champaign has never been established.
Sister school: Penn State
The Volunteers and Nittany Lions both have loyal fan bases that fill up six-figure stadiums. These national championship-level programs have each dealt with turmoil recently, although what went on in Happy Valley was much more sinister than anything that occurred in Knoxville. PSU is rolling again with James Franklin, but Butch Jones isn’t quite there yet with UT.
Sister school: Maryland
The Aggies were part of the defunct Southwest Conference, which was eventually reborn as the Big 12, going back to 1915. The Terrapins were charter members of the ACC in 1953. However, A&M left for the SEC in 2012. The Terps entered the Big Ten in 2014. While the Ags can recruit the Lone Star State, College Park is half an hour from D.C.
Sister school: Northwestern
Perhaps the most no-brainer comparison to make between the SEC and Big Ten, Vanderbilt and Northwestern are the sole small private schools in conferences full of big state institutions. Even if the Commodores and Wildcats will never win enough games to be genuine threats, graduates have more opportunities once eligibility expires.